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MARYLAND MATTERS

Maryland Senate candidate Trone calls for cease-fire, criticizes Israeli military operation in remarks to anti-Zionist activist

Rep. David Trone, a staunchly pro-Israel lawmaker, described Israel’s military operations in Gaza as ‘horrendous and incomprehensible’ and said ‘Netanyahu has to go’

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Rep. David Trone (D-MD)

Rep. David Trone (D-MD), a candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland who has been a staunchly pro-Israel member of Congress and was a major AIPAC donor, offered sharp criticism of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and endorsed a cease-fire — along with calling for a return of hostages — under questioning from an IfNotNow member at a recent event.

In a video posted by the anti-Israel group IfNotNow, Trone, responding to a question at a meet-and-greet on Jan. 6, said that “what happened on Oct. 7 was absolutely horrendous and incomprehensible. But what’s happened since then is also horrendous and incomprehensible.”

Under follow-up questioning, Trone said, “We need a permanent cease-fire and the hostages released.” He repeatedly paired his calls for a cease-fire with the need to release the hostages.

The comments are particularly striking coming from Trone given that he’s been among Israel’s most consistent and vocal supporters in Congress, was a top donor to AIPAC in his private life — having given at least $100,000 to the pro-Israel group — and has been outspoken through his wine and spirits business against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

Trone also called Netanyahu “a large part of our problem.”

“Netanyahu has to go. He has to go,” Trone said. “He’s their Trump, really… I think we’ve got to think about where is the issue, and he is the issue because he’s the one driving this thing relentlessly.”

The Maryland congressman emphasized the need to move aid into Gaza, adding that Gaza must be rebuilt following the war so that the Palestinians can “have a chance to have a job and have an income.” 

In a follow-up statement to Jewish Insider, Trone largely reiterated the views he expressed in the exchange with the protester.

“My position hasn’t changed: what happened on Oct 7th is one of the most horrific terrorist attacks we’ve seen in our lifetimes, and I support Israel’s right to protect its people and eliminate Hamas,” Trone said. “That said, I firmly believe that we should take immediate measures to protect the lives of innocent civilians, many of whom are women and children. To accomplish this, we must establish a ceasefire and simultaneously secure the safe return of the hostages, deliver vital aid to Gaza, and make progress in good faith toward a peaceful future in the Middle East.”

Trone is running in the Maryland Senate primary against Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Alsobrooks, in a statement to JI, offered a similar perspective on the conflict.

“The brutal attack on innocent Israelis on October 7 was horrific and the threat of Hamas should be removed from the world. Hamas must return the hostages to their families and we must move quickly towards a ceasefire,” she said.

“I believe that the United States and all other nations should do everything in our power to stop the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians in Gaza, further prevent the humanitarian crisis that is growing and move towards a post war two state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security,” she continued.

In his Senate campaign, Trone, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, has sought to reframe himself as the more progressive candidate in the race. “Angela is clearly to the right — she’s not very progressive whatsoever,” he said recently

Alsobrooks has also touted her progressive credentials on the campaign trail.

Other Democratic lawmakers have grown more critical of Israel’s military operations in recent weeks as well, and some have similarly offered conditional calls for a cease-fire, but Trone is the most outspokenly pro-Israel lawmaker to join such calls.

Trone, as recently as late December, was touting his support for Israel in a mailer received by a Jewish Democratic voter in Montgomery County shared with JI. The mailer features a picture of Trone and his wife at the Western Wall, superimposed over a large Israeli flag with the slogan “we stand with Israel.”

“The horrific attacks, including hostage taking and civilian murders of Israelis, Americans and others, are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated,” the mailer reads. “I pledge my unequivocal support to protect innocent civilians and destroy the terrorist infrastructure that allowed these attacks to happen.”

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